Fracking Key to the Energy Revolution, If EPA Gets Out of the Way

EPA is on track to limiting hydraulic fracturing, and with it, economic growth.


Thomas Pyle is the president of the Institute for Energy Research

Hydraulic fracturing has revolutionized energy production in America. From 1995 to 2008, the U.S. Geological Survey's estimates the amount of recoverable oil in the Bakken formation in North Dakota grew 25 fold. What has made all the difference during this period is the application of hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling to the tight underground shale formations that were previously inaccessible.

But as hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling have caused oil and natural gas production to expand in the United States, the opposition to their use has grown as well. Specifically, the most adamant opposition to hydraulic fracturing has come from anti-energy activists and the Environmental Protection Agency, both of which want to impose stringent regulations or ban fracturing altogether.

[Read the U.S. News Debate: Is Fracking a Good Idea?]

Last week, the Bismarck Tribune reported the Environmental Protection Agency was on track to impose regulations that would severely limit the use of fracking, thereby putting an end to the Bakken shale boom as we know it. This revelation is particularly troubling when one takes into account EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's recent testimony before Congress in which she admitted, "I'm not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water...."

Although EPA responded in an interview with Politico that the agency was only producing "draft guidance" recommendations and not "a regulatory document," the American people have reason to doubt their intentions. In fact, the EPA is currently using the same "guidance" recommendations to halt new surface mining in Appalachia. Given the Obama administration's anti-energy track record—proposing widely expensive ozone regulations, imposing a blanket moratorium on oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico, and reducing the areas available for offshore drilling—one should regard the EPA's assurances with a good deal of well-founded skepticism.

[See a collection of political cartoons on energy policy.]

Hydraulic fracturing has been an economic miracle for our struggling economy and at the same time, it has been impressively safe. The practice has been used in more than one million wells in the last 50 years without, as Administrator Jackson herself admitted, any proven cases of groundwater contamination.

To continue this energy revolution, we must remain vigilant so that the harsh economic realities of our jobs and national debt crisis can be solved in part with the production of affordable and abundant energy resources

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